Summary: It’s one thing to know God’s will; it’s another to do it. God wants us to be pure, to love others, and He longs to have our lives attract others to the life-changing message of the gospel.
Doing God’s Will
A wealthy man went up to his pastor and said, “I want you and your wife to take a three-month trip to the Holy Land at my expense. When you come back I’ll have a surprise for you.” Three months later they returned home and discovered that this man had built a beautiful new sanctuary for the church. It was magnificent and no expense was spared.
But the pastor noticed that there was just one pew, and it was at the very back of the church. When he asked the purpose of having only one pew in the spacious sanctuary, the wealthy man told him to wait until Sunday. When Sunday came, the early arrivals entered the church and sat in the one pew. When it was full, it automatically began to move forward. When it reached the front of the church, it came to a stop. At the same time a new pew came up from below at the back of the church and more people sat down. And so it continued, pews filling and moving forward until the church was full, from front to back.
The pastor couldn’t believe it and exclaimed, “Marvelous! Wonderful!” The service began, and the preacher began his sermon. He launched into his text and when 12:00 noon came, he was still going strong, with no end in sight. Suddenly a bell rang, and a trap door in the floor behind the pulpit dropped open, swallowing the pastor in the middle of one of his points. The congregation responded in unison, “Marvelous! Wonderful!”
As we come to 1 Thessalonians 4 this morning, Paul utilizes one of a preacher’s favorite words: “Finally…” While we might think Paul is wrapping up his message, it’s 12:00 noon in Thessalonica and he’s just getting started! We move now to a series of commands that deal with the walk of a Christian. Paul is saying, “There are a few other things that you need to know about.”
Let’s begin by breaking down the first two verses: “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” These words form a gentle reminder of the previous instruction they had received concerning how they should live in order to please God. The term “brothers” is used 17 times in this letter and literally means, “to come from the same womb.” I love how Paul urges them on by first affirming them when he says, “…as in fact you are now living.” It’s always best to look for ways to encourage someone before we call them on the carpet. Affirmation must always come before exhortation.
The Thessalonians have been following the instructions they had been given. This was a military term used for orders that were handed down to the troops. These weren’t just suggestions, but commands, and the army of believers who made up the new church faithfully followed these directives. Paul is saying that there’s something more that they need to put into practice so he “asks and urges” them to action.
They’ve been doing good but now need to carry out their marching orders “more and more.” They needed to step it up a notch, by taking their faith walk to the next level. This is both a compliment and a challenge. We must always be open to press on, to strive for excellence, to not rest on our laurels. Notice the two uses of the phrase, “the Lord Jesus.” They are urged to fully obey the Lord Jesus in the commands that are given by His authority. None of this is optional. He is the commander and our job is to follow Him fully. The practical matters to follow are of supreme importance.
Verses 1-2 contain a plea to please God. Verses 3-12 provide us with an explanation of how “to live in order to please God.” This should be the goal of every believer. We cannot claim to know and love God if we are not seeking to please Him. Under the authority of the Lord Jesus, we are to…
Be holy by living in purity (3-8)
Be harmonious by loving one another (9-10)
Be honest by lighting the outsider (11-12)
Be Holy By Living In Purity
Let’s look at the first part of verse 3: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…” Many times we make God’s will something that is elusive for us as believers. We wonder what it is He wants us to do, and where He wants us to live, when God is more concerned with who we are. We’re often more concerned with location and vocation, when God is committed to our transformation. We can find the will of God in the Word of God! I was amazed this week when I did a concordance search and discovered that the emphasis in the Bible is not so much on knowing God’s will, but on doing the will of God.